DARPA Biostasis seeks to slow biological time for battlefield survival

DARPA's latest research project is focusing on slowing down time, at least when it comes to biochemical reactions. The new Biostasis program seeks ways to extend a period time known as the golden hour — that is, the duration of time between the onset of an infection or an injury and the time when treatment is given. By extending that period of time and applying the technology to the battlefield, medical facilities may be able to save soldiers' lives.

Because medical care and transport on the battlefield is limited, the burden to save a soldier's life is often put on first responders and the technology they have available to them. By slowing the body's reactions to an injury or acute infection, the patient's own body would be buying time for first responders to transport the individual to a medical facility where treatment would take place.

DARPA intends for its Biostasis program to develop possibilities in achieving this goal using molecular biology, among other things. "Essentially," the agency explains, "the concept aims to slow life to save life." The agency envisions a solution in which the approaches can be scaled from "simple biological treatments" all the way up to methods covering the entire organism.

The slowing process would need to only cause minimal damage to the cellular processes, and it would need to be reversible so that normal speeds are resumed at the appropriate time. The goal isn't merely to save a life by extending the golden hour, but to also minimize the potential for permanent disabilities or other issues resulting from delayed treatment.

Initially, at least, this program will look at developing proof-of-concept technologies that will undergo testing with "simple living systems." These experiments will exist to validate the concepts with the goal being an eventual transition to human patients. The research program will last for a 5-year duration during which time fundamental research will take place.